Manuel A. Roxas (1946-1948) | Philippine Presidents

Manuel A. Roxas (1946-1948)


When Manuel Roxas started his term as the first president of the third republic of the Philippines, the country was paralyzed because World War II just ended. Commerce was experiencing recession because farms and factories were ruined. Transportation efficiency was down due to the bombed roads and bridges. Many people were massacred and towns and cities were burnt down. 80% of the school buildings were ruined which weakened the educational system. The reconstruction cost of these buildings reached 126 million pesos. Also, there was an annual deficit of about 200 million pesos. There was a crime rate hike because some Filipinos patronized the “American gangsters”. The reconstruction of the post-war Philippines fell into the hands of Manuel Roxas.


Since the country was severely tarnished by the war, the economy was struggling because of low output growth and high unemployment rates. Production became low because farms and factories were ruined. Production of rice, sugar, coconuts, abaca, coconut oil, cigars, tobacco, gold and chrome, and manganese and lumber was put to a halt because of the destruction of manufacturing facilities. Because businesses were closing, there were no more jobs available for people. Unemployment rates were rising at a fast pace. Education also severely weakened. School buildings were destroyed and instruments to teach children were obliterated. In the government sector, there were too many interference by the American government. Policies done by Roxas were highly influenced by US officials. These policies mostly benefited the welfare of their country. Because of the existing Western influences allowed by the former president, the HUKBALAHAP movement still created immense riot and commotion in the country.


Since the country was devastated by the war, Roxas centralized his promises around the rehabilitation of the Philippines. Economically, he wants to concentrate on production. He wants an income from exports to buy machines, hire technically skilled people, and buy food. He wants to revive the production of rice, sugar, coconuts, abaca, coconut oil, cigars, tobacco, gold and chrome, and manganese and lumber. For employment, he wants to give encouragement to Filipinos to participate in the new economy.

He believes that the foundation stone of national rehabilitation can be achieved by:
Feeding the hungry, healing the sick, caring for widows and orphans, waging war against inflation and unemployment (by increasing higher wages and production).

Besides asking help from the International Monetary and Rehabilitation Bank, United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration for financial aid, he wants assistance from America. He believes that the United States is the source of most finances of all these organizations.

A new tenacy law will take effect and usury will be halted. “Lands will be purchased by the Government and resold to tenants; new agricultural areas will be opened to settlement and modern method of agriculture will be taught. It is his aim to raise the status of the farm worker, to increase his earnings, to spread wide the benefits of modern technology.” (Roxas, 1946)


In 1946, the US congress offered 800 million dollars as rehabilitation money in exchange for the ratification of the Bell Trade Act. It was passed by the US congress specifying the condition of the Philippine economy governing the independence of the Philippines from the Americans. A system of preferential tariffs was implemented which discouraged government officials to control the country’s import-export market. The Philippine peso followed the US dollar currency. Aggravating the Filipino citizens, U.S. citizens and corporations were granted equal access to the natural resources of the country. Many nationalists were not in favor of the bell trade act because it was “a curtailment of Philippine sovereignty, virtual nullification of Philippine independence” as said by former president Sergio Osmena.

Roxas supported the acceptance of two important laws passed by the Congress of the United States to the Philippines. These laws were The Philippine Rehabilitation Act and the Philippine Trade Act (Bell trade act).
On August 5, 1946, the Treaty of General Relations was ratified between the Philippines and the US. It recognized Philippine independence as of July 4, 1946 and relinquished American sovereignty over the Philippine Islands. The establishment of US bases was also included in this treaty. On March 14, 1947, the Treaty of General Relations was signed.
On September 7, 1946, Manuel Roxas granted a General Amnesty to guerrillas who were imprisoned during World War 2. On January 28, 1948, General Amnesty was given to all those arrested for conniving with Japan. An earlier amnesty hindered Roxas because of his fear that the Americans might stop rendering financial assistance to the country.

On January 1, 1947 under the Bell Trade Act, the Parity Amendment was introduced. It gave American citizens and corporations equal rights to Filipinos to utilize natural resources and operate public utilities. On March 11, 1947, it was ratified in a national plebiscite.


The Treaty of General Relations was both beneficial for both countries (America and Philippines). It is an advantage for the Philippines because their independence was recognized and the Americans surrendered their rule over the country. When it was ratified in 1947,
the Military Bases Agreement became advantageous to the Americans because it allowed them to have US military bases in the country. 23 of those bases were leased for 99 years which means that they can leave the Philippine soil only by 2045.

General Amnesty was beneficial for the people who were caught conniving with Japan during World War II. Guerillas and people who served in key positions during the Japanese occupation may be reinstated in the government like Jose P. Laurel who was the president during the Japanese occupation.
The Bell trade act (the inclusion of the Parity Amendment in the constitution and the signing of the 1947 Military Bases Agreement) was dominantly an advantage for the American citizens and businesses. As mentioned, they were given equal rights as Filipinos to exploit the country’s natural resources. There was a great interference by the US government to the management of the economy of the Philippines. Roxas was highly criticized by nationalists for the ratification for this act.


Manuel Roxas failed to speculate the consequences of his decisions manipulated by American government officials. In the Bell Trade Act, conflicting interests were compromised. Policies under this act, as reiterated were mostly beneficial for America than for the Philippines. For 800 million dollars, the Philippes’ resources could already by exploited by US citizens and business; their economy will also be closely tied to the United States economy. Roxas did not consider the real cost of signing this Philippine Trade Act. Although rehabilitation money was important to revive the country, the preservation of what’s left in the country was more vital to the Filipinos. The Military Bases Agreement was also one of the flawed policies because it gave the Americans military control in the Philippines. Because of this, there is still no absolute freedom for the Filipinos. The country was again put at stake because of his reckless westernized decisions. Although his policies were made to remedy the country’s post war state, there were motives and controversies surrounding his decisions.


Although Roxas was successful in his objective to obtain rehabilitation funds from America to repair what has been destroyed in the Philippines, he was still criticized for his subjective decisions concerning policies implemented in the country.

One criticism in Roxas’ administration is his camaraderie with the Americans. He was too close to them to the point that he allowed US military bases in the country (23 were leased for 99 years), permitted trade restrictions for Filipinos, and gave special privileges for US property owners and investors.

Graft and corruption did not stop in the government. Scandals such as the surplus war property scandal, school supplies scandal and Chinese immigration scandals emerged during his time.

Roxas’ attempts to destroy the HUKBALAHAP created a negative notion to the masses. The people believed that he was not able to manage the HUKS and failed to halt the movement.

The citizens felt that he surrendered the country’s freedom to the Americans because of the revisions in the Philippine constitution. The new law gave parity rights to the Americans in exchange for rehabilitation money to fix the country. People were aggravated because most of his policies were dictated by General Mac Arthur and Commissioner Paul McNutt.
People were infuriated at Roxas to the point that there were plans of assassinating him. Fortunately for the former president, he escaped an attempted murder by a Tondo barber, Julio Guillen, who threw a grenade on the platform at Plaza Miranda after the President addressed the rally of citizens.


When Manuel Roxas started his term as the first president of the third republic, he was left with the post-war state of Philippines. Production decreased, education diminished, unemployment rate increased, interference from America heightened, and the HUKBALAHAP movement intensified. Since this was the state of the country, his inauguration speech centralized on the rehabilitation of the country. In exchange for 800 million dollars of rehabilitation money, the Bell Trade Act or the Philippine Trade Act was signed. Along with that policy, others like the General Amnesty and Military Bases Agreement was implemented. Most policies were manipulated by American government officials who made the policies more beneficial to the American citizens. Issues like the Bell Trade Act were highly criticized by people because it allowed Americans to exploit the Philippine’s natural resources. The countrymen felt bought because that right should have been exclusive to Filipino citizens. The Military Bases Agreement further angered the people because it allowed the American military to have their leased bases in the Philippines till year 2045. Roxas had a hard time managing people who did not agree with his policies. People attempted to murder him, but fortunately for him, he was able to escape death.


If I were to give him a grade, I would give him a 1. I only gave him passing mark because although he was able to obtain rehabilitation money to repair the country, the welfare and the nationalism of the country and the countrymen were jeopardized. He was highly influenced by the American government and failed to see the consequences of agreements he made (like the Bell Trade Act). He allowed the exploitation of resources and the establishment of military bases until 2045 which is highly absurd. Behind his “great caliber” is a puppet controlled by the American government. He depended too much on the aid of the United States. Ulterior motives involving policies were grave during his administration.

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